Climate change speeding up sea level rise, satellites show

Rescue boats ferry Houston residents to higher ground during Hurricane Harvey last year. A new study suggests the sea level could be rising faster than scientists believed and could worsen the impact of coastal storms like Harvey

But, that number "is nearly certainly a conservative estimate of future sea level change", Nerem said.

The warming of oceans and the melting of ice sheet and glaciers, particularly in Antarctica and Greenland, have contributed to the hastening sea level rise.

But Nerem's team used 25 years of satellite data to measure the rise, compared it to tide gauges and other measurements and took into account volcanic eruptions and weather that might alter sea levels.

The result is a "climate-change-driven" acceleration: the amount the sea levels are rising because of the warming caused by manmade global warming.

Accelerated rates of melting ice could mean sea levels rise by 65cm by the end of the century.

If the trend continues, it is likely to lead to an annual average sea-level rise of at least 1cm per year by 2100.

'For example, the Tampa Bay area has been identified as one of ten most vulnerable areas in the world to sea level rise and the increasing rate of rise is of great concern'.

"It's a small signal and yet, over 100 years, small signals add up to a lot", Steve Nerem, a University of Colorado, Boulder aerospace engineering professor and fellow at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, said in an interview with Seeker.

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In the past 100 years, it has climbed about a foot or more in some US cities because of ocean currents and the natural settling of land - 11 inches in NY and Boston, 12 in Charleston, 16 in Atlantic City, 18 in Norfolk and 25 in Galveston, Texas, according to a USA TODAY analysis of tide gauge data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

As per the report, the sea level has been rising at about three millimeters per year in the last 4-5 years and if this climate change issue goes on, then it is estimated that the sea level rise may increase to 10 millimeters per year by 2100.

Global sea levels can also be affected by climate patterns like El Nino and La Nina, the opposing periods of the El Nino Southern Oscillation which impact global precipitation patterns and ocean temperatures.

"So far, the difficulty in measuring sea level has made detecting acceleration very hard", said Joseph Majkut, climate scientist at the Niskanen Center, a pro-climate action libertarian think tank.

The researchers used tide gauge data to identify potential errors in the altimeter estimate.

They used data from the Grace satellite gravity mission to determine that the acceleration is largely being driven by melting ice. Processes could kick in that cause the ice to disintegrate faster than models predict.

Second, melting land ice flows into the ocean, also increasing sea level across the globe. "They provide the only assessments of the satellite instruments from the ground". Research had previously suggested that sea levels were not only rising but rising faster and faster.

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